Korean TV has its own take on reality

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Korean TV has its own take on reality

TV networks all across the broadcasting spectrum in Korea have hopped on the reality TV bandwagon in a major way.
Seoul Broadcasting Station, or SBS, one of the four major Korean TV networks, has announced plans to continue to air a reality show for the fall season, starting on Oct. 9.
“Beauty Rangers, Changing You,” which first appeared in August as a one-off program, is a trendy makeover show featuring a team of four celebrities in areas of fashion, food, interior design and beauty who are charged with the mission of changing a client’s lifestyle.
The basic program format is based on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” the popular American reality on Bravo TV starring five groomed and fashion-conscious gay men.
One of the first channels in Korea to take on the reality genre was DongA TV, a fashion and style cable channel. Last November, it aired a program called “Combat Cinderella,” which documented ordinary women who get plastic surgery. The competition to appear on the show was fierce, with more than 1,000 women competing for one spot each week.
Starting Friday, DongA airs “Wedding Survival,” a new reality show that follows a couple as they plan their wedding and honeymoon.
On Style, another lifestyle cable channel, has been airing “Singles in Seoul” since March, a series that depicts the lives of four single women in the Seoul dating scene. The company is planning to air a follow-up show for single men.
Other new programs include Food Channel’s “Challenge the Chef,” which tackles unemployment among younger Koreans by offering aspiring chefs a chance to prove themselves.
DongA TV is planning a local production called “Diet Survival,” which will feature real people struggling to lose weight, such as one married woman who was suffering from infertility due to obesity.
Many of the local reality TV shows are based on TV series that were hits overseas, such as “Extreme Makeover” in the United States. The Korean versions of these shows, however, often have to modify their content to fit the tastes of the local audience.
Lee Chung-yong, a SBS producer for “Beauty Rangers: Changing You,” says the program tends to receive criticism if it doesn’t appear to be genuinely helping people in need. He says that’s one of the reasons why local reality shows tend to make “an emotional appeal” to viewers.
“Combat Cinderella,” for example, shifted the show’s concept from ordinary people getting plastic surgery to people with actual disfigurements, such as a man with three nipples and a patient suffering from a rare facial deformation called Romberg’s disease.
Some experts, however, see interest in reality shows as excessive in Korea.
“There is a growing tendency among local reality programs to avoid ethical concerns by appealing to viewers’ emotions,” says Kim Chang-nam, a professor of media studies at Sung-Kong-Hoe University.
“They end up imitating commercial reality programs in the U.S. and Japan, which are sensational and stimulating,” he says.

by Lee Ji-young
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